Intelligence

Amid ‘Whistleblowergate,’ Trump again suggests his office has unlimited powers
‘I have the right to do whatever I want as president,’ president said in July

President Donald Trump makes remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands nearby on August 5. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

ANALYSIS | President Donald Trump on Friday insisted it “doesn’t matter” if he asks foreign leaders to target his domestic political foes, again describing the powers of his office as unlimited.

On yet another remarkable Friday that capped yet another remarkable week in his roller-coaster-like term, the president once again opted against distancing himself from allegations that would have amounted to a major scandal for anyone who held the unofficial title of “leader of the free world.”

Trump: ‘It doesn’t matter what I discussed’ on call that drew whistleblower’s complaint
President announces sanctions at the ‘highest level’ against Iran after strike against Saudi oil facility

President Donald Trump is mired in another crisis, this time over an allegation he made a troubling “promise” to another world leader. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump on Friday did not deny discussing former Vice President Joe Biden with his Ukranian counterpart during a telephone conversation that reportedly prompted an intelligence community whistleblower to file a formal complaint.

“It doesn’t matter what I discussed,” Trump told reporters Friday, according to a pool report. The ever defiant president then ran toward the controversy, saying, “Someone ought to look into Joe Biden.”

Meet the key appropriations players of the fall
List includes budget war veterans as well as relative newcomers

Eric Ueland has been the White House legislative affairs chief since June. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s the behind-the-scenes work of top legislative aides that makes the Capitol Hill machinery work, and that’s never truer than when lawmakers are trying to hash out spending bills as Congress and the White House will be focused on this fall and winter.

After initial decisions by Republican and Democratic clerks — the top staffers on the Appropriations subcommittees — full committee staff will step in to help work out any remaining issues. Leadership staff will be on hand to address the most intractable disagreements and questions about what legislation can ride with the spending bills, and to make sure the measures have enough votes to pass.

Trump denies ‘inappropriate’ remark to foreign leader that prompted whistleblower complaint
Both intel committees to hear from acting DNI, intel community inspector general

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a joint news conference after their summit in Helsinki, Finland, in July 2018. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump denied reports that he made a promise to an unidentified foreign leader that prompted an intelligence community official to file a formal complaint with an inspector general.

“Is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!” the president tweeted Thursday morning.

New national security adviser faces personality test with Trump’s inner circle
Robert O’Brien is largely a blank slate on policy, which could help him manage internal disagreements

Robert C. OBrien, serving as special envoy for President Donald Trump, arrives at a courthouse in Stockholm during the rapper A$AP Rocky assault trial in August. (Michael Campanella/Getty Images file photo)

Internal debates during President Donald Trump’s first two and a half years in office have been marked by acrimony, tension and high-stakes negotiations. So perhaps it was no surprise that Trump named as his fourth national security adviser the State Department’s lead hostage negotiator, Robert C. O’Brien.

No president has had so many national security advisers in his first term. However long O’Brien lasts in the job, his tenure will be defined less by his policy views and more by how he manages disagreements within Trump’s inner circle.

Esper brings China focus as Defense secretary
Plan to seek savings in Pentagon operations could face roadblocks

In search of savings, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is looking at spending by organization that provide back-office services to the Pentagon. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Like every new Defense secretary, Mark T. Esper says he wants to make the Pentagon more efficient. He will get some results, but not many and not quickly, experts say.

Esper, now a few months into the job, wants to save money to spend it on preparing for war against China, and to a lesser extent Russia.

Democrats object to Trump’s threatening Iran over Saudi oil attack
U.S. is ‘locked and loaded’ if Tehran believed to be behind strikes, president warns

President Donald Trump leaves after chairing a U.N. Security Council meeting last September. He will be back there, along with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, next week. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images file photo)

The United States should not take orders about using military force against Iran even if Saudi Arabia’s government declares Tehran was behind an attack on its oil facilities, congressional Democrats are telling President Donald Trump.

Trump signaled on Sunday evening and again on Monday morning that he is standing by for Saudi officials to sort out just what happened and who launched what U.S. officials said appeared to be armed drone and cruise missile strikes on the Saudi facilities. The attacks are expected to pare Saudi production and drive up oil and gas prices — but Democrats are concerned the incident might compel Trump to launch retaliatory strikes on Iran, which they say would be contrary to American interests.

Debating 2020 Democrats should not ignore our exploding debt
Our nation’s security — and ultimately its freedom — are dependent on its bottom line

Democratic 2020 hopefuls would do well to remember that our growing debt burden could cancel every initiative of the next president, Minge and Penny write. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photos)

OPINION — Twenty current and former Democratic presidential candidates have now debated twice without any discussion of an issue that actively threatens our nation and ideals: our growing debt burden.

Out of 229 questions asked by the moderators, not one was about the national debt. While there are many important passion-arousing causes for candidates to discuss, “boring” fiscal matters, such as our nation’s exploding debt — and the spiraling interest that comes with it — could cancel every initiative of the next president unless she or he has a plan to address it.

As election security risks grow, Congress must get off the sidelines
Some Republican senators argue new legislation is unnecessary. They’re wrong

The work to address threats posed to our voting infrastructure is far from over, Waller writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Texas got some terrible news last month. Twenty-two municipalities in the Lone Star State were the targets of massive ransomware attacks — a kind of cyber kidnapping. According to the mayor of Keene, “Just about everything we do at city hall was impacted.” The Borger city government wasn’t able to process utility payments — putting residents at risk of losing access to running water or electricity.

If just a few attacks could debilitate almost two dozen cities in Texas, imagine the chaos if several hundred were carried out on our country’s voting infrastructure right before Election Day. To prevent this, Congress must pass legislation that deters future foreign interference in our electoral system.

California sees push on data privacy
Companies and others want exceptions to strict new state law

The California measure is seen as stricter than a similar European privacy law. Above, the state Capitol in Sacramento. (Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Companies across the country are waging one last battle in Sacramento to carve out a few exemptions before California’s tough data privacy law is approved by the state’s lawmakers, who will adjourn for the year by the end of this week.

Retailers, online advertisers, small businesses and groups representing employers are all seeking either exemptions or amendments to the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, which has set the stage for a national debate on how companies should safeguard users’ personal information online.